My Clipper Race boat may be named ‘Switzerland’ but it also carries the name of a charity, Mercy Ships. I had vaguely heard of them but it was only last weekend at a team-building session at a North London scout camp that we found out more about what they do.
Mercy Ships started life in 1978 when a couple living in Switzerland started looking for a ship that could be used as a hospital and provide medical care in places where it was most needed.
In 1982, the charity launched its first vessel called ‘Anastasis’ which was originally an ocean liner. Then in 2007, a former Danish car ferry called ‘Africa Mercy’ took to the seas. It has five operating theatres and a crew of around 400 people who treat almost 4,000 patients on board and 25,000 on land each year.
Africa Mercy is currently on its way to the Republic of Congo where it will stay for ten months. While it is there, its crew will help train local doctors as well as save the lives of people with medical conditions that would be easily treated in the UK.
And like my Clipper boat, the crew aren’t being paid to do it. They are volunteers who take time off to lend their medical skills.
As ‘Switzerland’ sails around the globe, we will be sponsored for each leg we complete. The Mercy Ships’ name on our hull will also help to promote the work that they do as the charity aims to raise the funds to buy a second hospital ship. My crew also plan to keep in touch with the 'Africa Mercy' crew to find out how they’re doing.
However, we’re not the only Clipper crew who have been doing things for charity. The crew of one of our rivals OneDLL spent last weekend tying pieces of rope together using reef knots to raise over £4000 (so far) for the Ellen MacArthur Cancer Trust. They set a world record by tying 1383 in an hour, that’s around four knots every ten seconds. Though they did get a lesson beforehand from the Clipper Race founder Sir Robin Knox-Johnston.
Next week, the Clipper racers will be heading to Gosport to prepare their boats before sailing them around to London. The race start on September 1st is less than a month away.